Traditional Values

1968 and 1969 went on their normal course, in the middle of global pandemic

Our fathers and mothers were made of sterner stuff.

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The world remembers with some degree of nostalgia the music festival at Woodstock, NY, in August of 1969. Granted, there were a lot of filthy lice-ridden hippies cavorting in the muck and mire of the joint. That alone was a public health issue. But apparently there was also some interesting music, if you go in for that sort of thing.

The previous year, 1968, had been tumultuous and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy captured the headlines. Republican Richard Nixon had been elected president after the Democrats had let their youth wing get a tad out of hand and the Chicago Police showed the tikes the error of their ways.

In 1969 itself men landed on the moon, the Mets won the World Series, and many of us were attending elementary school. This was all happening in the middle of the Hong Kong flu, a deadly global pandemic that killed over a million people. However, calmer heads prevailed in those days and sports, shopping, schools, social activities, and normal life went on as usual. People just took common sense precautions and went on with their lives. Sadly today, this has not been the case.

This H3N2 strain of influenza A was first spotted in Hong Kong in July of 1968. By the fall the Hong Kong flu had reached India, Australia, and Europe. The worldwide peak hit as it reached the U.S. in December of 1968. It was fought with the medical technology of over fifty years ago. Neither Apollo 8 nor Christmas were cancelled.

It returned in the 1969-1970 flu season worse than ever. Nothing was closed or shut down because of it and, as noted before, hippies rutted in the mud of Woodstock, oblivious to the pandemic. Remember all those news reports about young people dying, because of the very close proximity and sparse hand washing at Woodstock? That is unlikely, because it never happened.

The point is not that common sense precautions were then, and are now, bad ideas. It is that our parents, and in some cases grandparents, knew how to deal with crisis and challenge without falling apart, reaching for the smelling salts, and then spending trillions of dollars in a panic borne of a mass hysteria not confirmed by hard data. It is a particular talent we have lost.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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